You’ve heard many people talking about Search Engine Optimization(SEO) and its importance in the visibility of your Portal website or Blog or Forum. Well, it is vital to your website, but there are certain rules to follow and certain techniques that are important to avoid at all cost. Here we will discuss some of the most common mistakes made by so called SEO ‘experts’, companies claiming to specialize in SEO, and even your average web developer alike.
The first and probably the most common mistake is improper utilization of the title tag or ignoring it altogether. The title tag is the browser title that appears within your website. It is considered very important by search engines and is used to decipher the relevancy of your site. Therefore, ensure that you do have a title tag and also that it contains your most important keywords and not just a generalized term or your company name. If you want to include your company name, you may do so, but place it near the end of the title, giving your keywords more importance at the beginning. The search engines will decide the importance of each word in your title based on its placement near the beginning.
The second most common error is the misusing or lack of proper keywords. Many companies try to use the more sought after keywords in their meta tags and descriptions in attempt to generate more traffic to their site, but if your company has nothing to do with these keywords, this traffic will be meaningless and a waste of valuable resources. Try to focus on the main topics directly related to your business and your website and find keywords that reflect these, but at the same time, are not overused or too broad in their meaning. For example, if you renovate kitchens in New York City, do not put as your keyword, kitchen, because this is too broad a title and will result in too much competition. Narrow down your keywords so that the traffic generated will be searching for specifically what you have to offer in that area, if appl icable. There are also programs and websites that can help you determine good keywords for your site, (Ex: www.wordtracker.com).
Another common practice is known as ‘black hat SEO’. This refers to frowned upon methods used by certain companies in order to push your site to the top of the search engines. These methods include doorway pages, cloaking, spamming, using link farms and linking schemes, as well as invisible text. Doorway pages are ‘fake’ pages built into the website that only the search engine spiders can see. A different page is seen by the human viewer. These ‘fake’ pages are usually filled with keywords and descriptions, trying to trick the spider into giving you a higher page ranking. Cloaking is a form of the doorway page technique, in that the content presented to the search engine is different from the content seen by the viewer. Spamming is when multiple keywords are placed in the content of the page and in the code, making it unreadable but geared towards the search engines. Link farms and linking schemes refer to different websites offering links and linking techniques whose primary goal is to try to control and manipulate the search engine rankings. They offer tons of links but no real, valuable content. Lastly, some SEO companies will place invisible text on your site that is visible to the search engines but not to the viewer, ie.white text on a white background. All of these ‘black hat’ techniques are highly discourages and can often lead to your site being banned from major search engines or black listed. Once this has occurred it is very hard to undo, therefore be very careful, and make sure that the person or company taking care of your SEO is not employing these methods.
Fourthly, you often hear of companies advertising a fixed price to submit your site to hundreds of search engines as well as a promise to give you a top ten ranking and to resubmit your site whenever necessary. First of all, no company can promise you a ranking in the top ten. The search engines are constantly changing their criteria and algorithms used to decipher the rankings of each site and the only way that a company could even come close to being able to promise this is if they are using the ‘black hat’ techniques previously described. If this is the case, you may get lucky and appear in the top ten for a short while, but it will not last long, and you will quickly be bumped when the search engines realize what is happening. On top of which, you will permanently damage the image of your company on the web, so it is definitely not recommended. Another important factor to consider is that there are only about ten to twelve top search engines on the web, and most of the other search engines get their information from these top ten, therefore it is not necessary to have your site submitted to hundreds of search engines. Being listed in the top ten is more than enough. Lastly, when a company continually resubmits your site to the search engines, it is actually detrimental to your website, contrary to what many think. The search engines constantly update their information by going through your website every so often therefore it is not necessary to continually attempt to resubmit your information to them. Also, many search engines will ban you if you attempt to submit too often. The only time you ever need to resubmit to a search engine is if you have changed your url or if for some reason your website has been removed from the search engine. Otherwise, once you are there, you are there for good. For your reference, the top search engines on the web currently are: Google, Yahoo, MSN Search (top three), and then AltaVista, Direct Hit, Fast, Netscape, HotBot / AOL, Inktomi, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, and Open Directory. All of these will take time to index your site once you have submitted to them, so be patient, do not resubmit. The times vary from 1-10 weeks, depending. Google is usually 2-5 weeks and Yahoo 4-6 weeks.
Another common mistake is the overuse of images or flash content on your website. Of course, pictures and a flash intro look nice to the viewer, but they are not search engine friendly. Search engines are based on textual content and are not able to recognize flash or images and consequently will not use them when indexing your site. Therefore, try to minimize your use of images and flash, and try to ensure that the images you do have contain some text description in the form of alt tags.
In terms of site layout, you often see links from the home page leading to other pages in the site that are of relevance. One common mistake made in the development of the website is the usage of links that read “click here” instead of just underlining the actual title of the l ink. People are familiar enough with the web to know that an underlined title most often contains a link to the relevant page, therefore there is no need to place this type of link, and more importantly, search engines use your internal links in helping them decide your ranking, and having a link that says “click here” is completely useless to the search engine. Therefore, ensure that all your links have a clear and concise link title.
Finally, the biggest mistake that companies make in SEO is that they try to optimize their site for one specific search engine or focus more on the optimization itself than the actual content of the website. It is said that the best way to boost your rankings on the web, other than basic SEO, is to have good, original content that is constantly updated and user friendly. If your site is built in a way that it provides useful information to people searching the web, information that is not readily available on hundreds of other sites, and is easy to navigate, people will want to use your website and it will naturally go up in the rankings. Also, optimizing your site for one specific search engine is not recommended as each search engine has its own techniques for ranking websites, and optimizing your site for one search engine will not necessarily make it optimized for another.
In conclusion, SEO is necessary for your website, but due to the popularity of the web and the high competition, there are many unethical practices being used in order to boost website rankings. Refrain from using these ‘black hat’ methods, and stick to the basics, remembering that good, original content, and patience is imperative when it comes to success on the web. If you develop your site in a way that caters to the user in its content and usability, and you maintain it properly and update it regularly, you will obtain the desired results in due time.